Yes, you can call your potential buyer, but can you stay in contact with them every day?
Yes, you can put an ad in a magazine, but after one pass through the June-July issue, will they really remember you? Yes, you can talk to a purchase agent at a trade show, but what happens after everyone goes home and pamphlets and business cards get lost amid the piles of literature?
An integration of inbound and outbound marketing strategies can bring breakthrough results to a B2B company’s marketing effectiveness.
The marketing strategies of B2B businesses are, in many ways, different from the marketing strategies of a B2C business, simply because their products and targets are dissimilar.
While a B2C business marketing strategy is designed to incite desire for a product or service, creating a specific call to bring the customer to action by purchasing the product, a B2B marketing plan has a trickier end goal – creating a long-term relationship as they partner with other businesses.
Characteristics of a B2B Marketplace
Relationship-focused marketing orientation
Global target market
Fewer sales at a higher price point (than B2C)
Buyer’s decisions are specification-driven
Common B2B Marketing Strategies
Relationship-Focused Marketing Orientation
In a successful B2B sales relationship, you are not simply selling a product or service to your customer. Instead, you are selling a partnership, a relationship based on mutual trust and respect that will hopefully extend years into the future.
Many companies of this nature pride themselves on their efforts to always provide a face with the name. A company representative or technician typically accompanies the business’ product or service wherever it is presented or delivered, developing a reputation that emphasizes the personability of the brand.
B2B companies take years to build an indelible, longstanding company image. Why do B2B representatives wine and dine their clients? Why do they take them out golfing, or catch up with them over a drink at a trade show? They have a relationship to maintain with their buyers.
Commitment is a Process
Submitting a purchase order isn’t nearly as simple as buying a pack of gum. While a grocery store customer’s buying process might take less than 30 seconds, a B2B purchasing agent’s buying process might take 30 days.
According to an article by Yoast, creator of the WordPress SEO Plugin, only 12% of customers sign a purchase order within the same day of their first exposure to a company’s offering. More importantly, a miniscule 6.6% of contacts become buyers after 4 months have passed since their first contact with the business.
It’s important to have a marketing strategy that targets your contacts during the following four months after they meet your business.
Yoast, creator of the WordPress SEO Plugin, describes the B2B purchase process by saying,
“The long lead time of a B2B purchase obviously doesn’t apply for things like office supplies. However, it does apply for something like a complex technical installation. This has a lot to do with the money and people involved. The technician has to take a look at the performance of the machine, the economic man is interested in the cost of buying and maintaining the machine and if you aren’t lucky, the managing director also has an opinion about the whole thing.”
Interfacing with an agent from a potential buying company at a trade show is the first step. When that individual leaves that trade show, however, how will you keep up with them? What avenues of easily-accessible information do you provide? When they’re finished reading your brochures, is there more?
When they visit your website, will they find helpful information that gives further details about your product? Will they find valuable content, videos, testimonials, specs, and a blog that will provide information about product or service details, case studies, company updates, event announcements, and other information relevant to the industry? They should, because you have four months and counting.
Integrating Outbound and Inbound Marketing: Four Months In Counting…
You meet a contact at a trade show. A satisfied purchasing agent refers a friend to check out your company. An interested party sees your product in action in the field. In these situations, most people don’t immediately pick up the phone. Instead, they visit your website. They read your content and are impressed with the helpful information, perhaps responding by downloading your white paper or eBook, which also provides you with their email address and the company they represent. You send them a follow-up email, asking if you might set up a phone call. Two worlds collide as outbound and inbound B2B marketing work together.
They know you update your company blog regularly, so they revisit your website every couple of days to view your latest article. Your latest post is especially helpful, so they share it via their company LinkedIn profile. The post is re-shared several times, and a friend, of a friend, of a friend sees the LinkedIn post and follows the link to your website. The process starts over again – Website, blog post, share and repeat.
Website: An Inbound Tool with Outbound Results
As people are becoming more ad-blind and frustrated by salespeople, your online presence is often the first face of your business. Even if you’ve already met a contact and they subsequently visit your website, you want them to have a reason to browse as well as a reason to keep coming back. A robust website featuring lots of well-written, relevant content, will supplement your outbound marketing strategy by providing your contacts with a way to stay involved with your company during the days in between your phone calls.
A great website will have:
- A modern theme and layout
- A mobile-compatible design
- An easy and organized navigation and structure
- Detailed service or product pages
- A company blog focused on the right buyer personas
Content: Informative, Valuable, and Engaging
The road to effective B2B content marketing lies in your ability to engage current and prospective customers by providing useful, relevant content that demonstrates how your expertise and quality services will improve their business revenue and take their company to a new level.
This content should be designed to ease the decision making process for your prospective client. This is accomplished by expounding upon the uniqueness and importance of your product and company as a whole, while providing reassuring and honest testimonials or reviews.
Good content will contain specific information that your client will need to make an informed decision on your product or service, such as:
Interesting or intriguing content that catches their interest
Testimonials of other satisfied customers
News of new products or updated services
Social Media: What Can It Do For You?
A recent survey done in the United Kingdom demonstrated that while 86% of current businesses use social media within their marketing strategies, only 32% used it for the purpose of lead generation. The reality is that social media, while a powerful tool, isn’t going to be the driving force in providing your B2B company with leads.
What social media can do for your B2B marketing plan, however, is create heightened brand awareness, encourage social sharing, and create brand trust and brand followers. By creating a tight-nit group of followers, you’ll have a base beneath your business of loyal people that, by their presence, builds trust and awareness with the rest of the world. Namely, other prospective customers.
Keeping Your Enemies Close:
Social media is also a useful tool in keeping tabs on your competitors. Keeping your friends close, and your enemies closer is easily accomplished with social media platforms such as Twitter. Friend those competitors, and learn from them as they Tweet information, new products, or newly published articles.
One of the best social media platforms available is LinkedIn. This was created specifically for the B2B marketplace, and it is a place for companies to highlight their products, services, job opportunities and find other businesses to partner with. Maintaining a regular presence here with blog posts, press releases, event announcements, corporate literature, forum and group participation (within similar industries), asking questions and starting discussions will increase your visibility within the business world.
This collaboration of the two realms of marketing strategies, inbound and outbound, fills all the marketing holes that are hidden in a marketing campaign. While B2B marketing strategies will always require that personal touch of relational outbound marketing, creating an effective inbound campaign to compound the outbound will produce incredible results for your company. Those who slip through the fingers of the trade show reps will hear about your product in a press release, or on LinkedIn.
Broaden your reach and mend all the holes in the marketing nets—customers await you.